Monday, January 4, 2016

Time Based Markets as Secondary Markets

Why is healthcare, as a time based product in many respects, "differently priced"? Timothy Taylor notes this as a "market malfunction" in a recent post, and he says:
One of the signs of a well functioning market is that prices for very similar goods or services are much the same in different places.
Clearly, similar pricing isn't the case for healthcare, which for purposes of this post will be included in an overall - or theoretical - time/knowledge use services designation. First, I should begin with the fact that the post title is based on an observation which - as someone who is not an economist - has taken me years to decipher. There are many reasons why secondary markets matter, in that they play a relatively new role for macroeconomic outcomes and long term growth potential.

Imagine secondary markets as encased (or nested) in the primary markets of commodities and asset formation, even though they ultimately take different forms and have contributed to wealth thus far through less quantifiable means. Hence there are different outcomes for both output aggregates and pricing structures in secondary services markets, than one might expect from traditional manufacture, for instance. Cultural factors can also play a role, in the monetary values which are assigned to knowledge use.

Since the most important form of knowledge based product remains linked to time and place, pricing for time based services plays out through a wide range of potential resource capacity. Time based services flourish where resource potential is abundant, yet may be sparse and poorly compensated where (economic) complexity is missing. These factors explain why some time based product is not exposed to the price leveling effects of international markets, which rely on common internal characteristics of specific firms. Even though time based services product needs more "tradable" characteristics, it shouldn't be expected to carry the same pricing characteristics across space and time which apply to time compensation in tradable sectors.

Consider compensated time value from a broader perspective for a moment, i.e. one of general employment capacity. In a sense, any compensated time value can be thought of as a secondary market, and today's compensated time value still originates from already existing wealth sources. However, there is a crucial difference for time value which is compensated as free standing and time based services, versus time value as compensated within specific organizational structures that designate time value according to internal resource availability.

It helps to remember that free standing (defined) services product is compensated "externally" (multiple institutions), either by monetary (private) or fiscal sources, which have in common various local/non local preexisting wealth.* While free standing services product relies on multiple institutions to generate unique time value pricing, compensation for time value within tradable sectors relies on single institutions, for similar sets of internal resource capacity. This is what allows salary formation in tradable sectors to come closer to the pricing levels that are also represented by product which is sold worldwide.

Another important aspect of time value as a secondary market, is that supply side conditions have been more conducive for the resource capacity which generates product existing separately from time value. In other words; commodities, products and asset flows can be bottlenecked by limits in aggregate time value - a process which also reduces much needed velocity. Even though recession is associated with excess demand for money, there is also excess demand for time value - particularly when tight monetary conditions are shorting aggregate time value into the foreseeable future.

Importantly, if formal time arbitrage were to be adopted, it would still be a secondary marketplace much as other nominal income is represented. Also, formal time arbitrage would generate compensation (i.e. prices) for time value which don't necessarily correlate with prices for time value in other economic context. As alternative equilibrium, local corporations would internalize symmetrically coordinated services formation, much as worldwide corporations organize time value for product which exists separately from time value.

Asymmetric compensation for time based services - widespread though it may presently be, remains fragile to changing economic conditions. When the economic circumstance of nations becomes fragile, so too does asymmetrically compensated services formation. In some instances, this form of knowledge based services would no longer be perceived as necessary, should economic conditions not remain conducive for full asymmetric valuations. While individuals would of course continue to desire services, they would nonetheless purchase time based services in relation to personal time constraints and personal resource access. Only consider the differences in this regard for income levels, to note how different services demand could actually play out, in contrast with other forms of product demand.

As a result, time based services are dependent not just on the monetary support of assets or other output, but also aggregate income representation. Hence policy makers should not make the mistake of assuming that time value - as a secondary marketplace - is only a secondary priority. On the contrary, time value should be considered among the highest priorities for central bankers, if economies are to remain stable.

*A bit of perspective: local corporations would coordinate internal resource capacity alongside the compensation of time value for service formation, much as worldwide corporations presently tap internal resources to compensate time value for labor in general. Also, even though time arbitrage would not be dependent on already existing wealth, it would still be a secondary marketplace in the sense that it would need to take place through a system of ongoing organizational capacity.

Both asymmetric and symmetric time value are "unique", in contrast to the common pricing factors of an international tradable goods marketplace. Time value relies on unique conditions and environments, hence unique pricing, and it is highly finite in relation to otherwise "infinite" resource capacity. The danger for asymmetric pricing is to assume that the relationship between time value and other forms of resource capacity is not important.

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